Pumpkin Head Foodie

Well, it really is pumpkin season.

And that odd phenomenon called Pumpkin Spice in coffee, ice cream, pudding, bacon, and just about anything you can imagine pumpkin flavor showing up in made its appearance on the scene right around the first of September (at least in my neck of the woods). However you feel about putting that particular flavor in stuff, the idea is here to stay.

I’m sort of a purist. So today I’m giving out a recipe for a pumpkin bread I like to bake. I also happen to use dried cranberries a lot. This is the season for cranberries too so you could maybe use this one for a holiday coming up. They’re coming up in my neck of the woods anyway.

Normally, I’d tell you that you can exchange out ingredients, because you know I do that a lot when I cook. But in the case of baking, I like to be fairly exact. The only thing I can suggest is cutting down on the sugar. Sometimes I do that because I don’t like stuff as sweet as the average Joe/Jill. Naturally, if you’re gluten intolerant, you know what to do.

I like it with the orange juice because it helps the cranberry flavor along.

Mini Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Makes 5 mini loaves

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1T. + 2 t. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. orange juice or water
  • 1 c. dried cranberries

Combine flour, spice, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, oil and juice in small mixing bowl; beat until just blended. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon batter into 5 greased and floured 5 x 3 disposable foil loaf pans.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven  for 50-55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool.

Eat Hardy!

 

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Foodie is Stewing

I promised this recipe to friend who was curious. I made it earlier this week because I was in the mood for something substantial, but heart healthy. This turns out to be more of a stew than a soup because lentils soak up so much liquid and because the large veggies aren’t reminiscent of a thinner dish. I usually use brown lentils, but if you aren’t sure what kind you should use in a particular recipe, this might help.

I’m a cook who uses what’s on hand if it works.  I also make substitutions all the time to go along with my own taste and health needs. This stew can easily translate if you want it to. This is the basic recipe; you’ll find some alternative additions/substitutions at the end of the post.

Use your imagination. It’s your kitchen!

Tugboat Lentil Stew

  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 c. sliced carrots
  • 1 c. sliced celery
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. sliced chicken sausage (or 1/2 c. shredded chicken)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 t. sea salt
  • 1/2 t. hot sauce (if desired)
  • Lemon slices for garnish
  • Red wine vinegar

Rinse and pick over lentils for stones. In a Dutch oven, heat oil till hot. Toss in onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes or till onion is translucent and vegetables are tender crisp. Add tomato sauce, water, vegetable broth, bay leaves and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover; reduce heat and let simmer for about 25 minutes or till vegetables are slightly soft. Add chicken sausage and pepper. Cover and let cook another 10 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Add salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and a dash of red wine vinegar. Serves 8-10.

Meat: I have never used chicken sausage because I can’t find it. I have used ground turkey because I like cooking with it and it’s less fatty. When I use ground turkey in this recipe, I cook it until done in a frying pan with the olive oil first and add some ground fennel. Fennel will give a sausage-like flavor. Experiment with it for your own taste.

Veggies: I’m not a fan of celery so I’ve never used it in Tugboat Lentil Stew. Sometimes, if I have them, I’ll throw in 2 cups of frozen mixed vegetable instead. Or one cup each of frozen carrots and green beans (or peas). I always use onion because what’s a stew without it?

Liquid: I like the flavor we get using tomatoes. But if I don’t have tomato sauce, I almost always have a can of petite diced tomatoes around. A large can is okay because I’ve found that those lentils really soak up the liquid. In fact, I use more broth too. I add it as needed as the stew cooks. Unsalted chicken broth is my favorite because there’s so much sodium in the other types.

Spices/Herbs and Garnish: Bay leaves are a must. It’s a stew, after all. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out. No sea salt? Use whatever kind you have. Remember that with sea salt, you don’t need as much for flavor. I don’t garnish mine. I usually want my stew right away and I’m not so fancy I need that. Although the vinegar sounds good for a little kick. Speaking of “kick,” I’m all for just a pinch of red pepper too. You can add that to the pan when you pour in the liquids.

Enjoy your stew. Would love to hear your comments and if you’re one of those “by guess and by golly” cooks like me.

 

 

 

 

Foodie’s Crazy Kitchen

Raise your hand if you subscribe to more than five Foodie blogs. Thank you; I see I’m in good company.

I’m afraid I inject some of personality every time I write a Foodie post. That’s probably a good thing. Last week I gave a friend a heads-up, letting her know today’s subject would again be kitchen tips.

Well, if you consider the following “kitchen tips,” your personality is a lot like mine.

Consider this list of words I associate with creating in the kitchen:

  • Hodge-podge
  • Daring
  • Variety
  • Fun
  • Whisking (I enjoy whisking)
  • Gadgets
  • Spills
  • Putter

Something that springs to mind in addition to all that is “Crazy.” Not the kind that people associate with a mental illness. (And that’s not a good use of the word anyway). This is ‘crazy’ meaning sort of wacky or zany. Like, if someone eavesdropped as you putter in the kitchen, they might be surprised. They might furrow their brow. They might gasp. Let’s hope they see the fun you’re having and giggle.

Crazy Foodies, as far as I’ve seen, get lost in the process. They love going rogue by experimenting. Crazy Foodies sing, hum, or dance while they maneuver in the kitchen because music is often part of the process.

Where are the kitchen tips I promised? All right, here we go. And remember these tips are about being a little crazy in the kitchen, whether they look like it or not.

  1. Keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge
  2. Think outside the box (Wait. I got rid of the box)
  3. If you have kids, get them involved
  4. Use your gadgets to their ultimate potential
  5. Don’t keep too many gadgets around
  6. Clear a large space for your work area
  7. Use recipes for tried-and-true stuff
  8. Try recipes—your own or someone else’s—that challenge you
  9. Don’t try to be a master chef (Relax!)

Because I enjoy experimenting and altering recipes, I can see how having a well-stocked pantry helps me to experiment and be creative. An added bonus is that I can be more methodical.

But does being methodical take away from the fun and spontaneity?

Naah. It doesn’t hurt to have a plan, even if you consider yourself a Crazy Foodie. When you’re somewhat methodical, you give yourself elbow room to be more creative.

Last night, I made cole slaw from what was left of the huge head of cabbage a friend gave me. She’s gluten intolerant and craved some sort of popular Italian-style meal so I made Cabbage Lasagna. My recipe for homemade cole slaw dressing was perfected by thinking out of that box which doesn’t exist in my kitchen.**

In my neck of the woods, we have a couple of Autumn holidays coming up. Foodies get a little crazy making dishes with a new twist. Naturally, I encourage that. In fact, that’s why I follow more than five Foodie blogs. I steal ideas from those writer/kitchen experts.

Let’s get crazy if we haven’t already tried it. If you already practice craziness, invite a friend to come and enjoy the process. Add some peanut butter to the banana bread.  Make some overnight oats that taste like an Almond Joy.

Just do it.

What words do you associate with creating in the kitchen? Would love to hear you chime in. So I can steal your ideas. Thanks in advance for letting me be a Kitchen Burglar.

Eat hardy!

**Truthfully, there is a box. For instance, I don’t do things like put lobster in chocolate fudge.

 

 

Foodie Cookie Winner

What a fun day we had recently in my rental community. They called it Tenant Appreciation Day. I was able to meet a few more of my neighbors, which is always fun. The company sponsored a chili cook-off and a couple bake-offs, one of which yours truly was a winner.

The winning entry, my pumpkin bars, were selected in the cookie category because our office manager decided they’re more of a cookie than a cake. That was okay with me—I won! The recipe is below. I failed to take a photo of these moist, not-too-sweet ‘cookies’ and it was too late by the time we thought of it. They disappeared quickly.

As you know, one of my favorite things to do is putter in the kitchen. I even enjoy clean-up time. Nothing like a tidy space to work. So when they said we’d be competing for the best stuff, how could I resist?

Robert won for his splendid homemade barbecue sauce and grilled chicken. Oh, you guys, it was mouth-watering tender. The sauce had just enough tart and sweet to please any palate. Duane took the prize for his pound cake and Amanda won in the chili category.

So there we were, mingling, eating and listening to some rocking music. The kids were making crafts and everyone got a goodie bag. The adults played that old favorite, “Guess How Many Are in the container.” A large Ball storage jar and a small one filled to the brim with hard candy and Red Hots. They gave extra incentive for the large container by taping a $2 bill to the side.

Hey, I’ll compete for money. Good thing I did. I came closest to the amount without going over with a guess of 639. The jar contained six hundred and something. Considering I have a rotten sense of spatial relationships, that’s pretty good. I never win anything so “Wow.” Best Cookie and Best Guesser. I shared the contents of the jar. I mean, what am I going to do with almost 700 pieces of candy? Or is that a dumb question?

 

Pumpkin Bars

  •  2 c. flour
  •  2 t. baking powder
  •  2 t. cinnamon
  •  1 t. baking soda
  •  4 eggs
  •  ¾ c. oil
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • 1 16 oz. can pumpkin

Blend eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. Blend dry ingredients in a small bowl and add to the large bowl ingredients. Bake in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let bars cool before spreading them with the cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • ¼ c. butter
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Blend all ingredients together and frost the cake.

A fairly simple recipe. As always, you can prepare this with a little less sugar as I do. I like to use a glass dish for these. It seems to bake nicely. And if you have problems with gluten, other flours usually work as well. I’ve mixed almond flour with wheat flour and I enjoy the flavor just as much.

Eat Hardy!

25 Simple Foodie Pleasures

We putter around the kitchen. We experiment with new recipes. We share a recipe with someone. When the kids are hungry, we get busy and feed them. Over the years, we accumulate cook books, gadgets and experience.

Foodies are usually well-versed in culinary activities. We share kitchen tips with others who enjoy baking and cooking. We’re also really fun to be with.

How many of these Simple Foodie Pleasures do you enjoy? Which ones would you add?

 

 

 

  1. Finding a new recipe that requires ingredients you already have in the pantry
  2. Using place mats and cloth napkins when having someone over for lunch
  3. Washing fruit, then seeing those pretty, clean colors mingle in a clear glass bowl
  4. Experiencing a new flavor or an ethnic dish never before tried
  5. Finding the bay leaf in a bowl of stew
  6. No-bake cookies
  7. Baked macaroni and cheese
  8. Anything homemade, especially pie
  9. Eating an occasional mushroom Swiss burger and the juices drip down your chin
  10. Slow-roasted rather than slow cooker
  11. Enough counter space in which to work
  12. When the bread rises just right
  13. Good conversation around the table
  14. Sharing a recipe with someone. Then they share it with someone
  15. Hasselback potatoes that come out just right
  16. At least 5 things you can do with a bountiful crop of zucchini
  17. Wearing a favorite apron
  18. Preparing some finger-lickin’ good southern fried chicken
  19. A steak grilled to the exact doneness you like
  20. Greek kebabs and pita wedges with tzatziki
  21. Learning how to make perfect fried green tomatoes
  22. Pie crust that rolls out nicely and is flaky, to boot
  23. Buying fresh veggies from the local farmers’ market
  24. Eating some flaky beignets, baklava, or croissants (better yet, knowing how to make them)
  25. Eating well, but not getting stuffed

Foodie’s Ready For Strawberries

My birthday happens in early June—just celebrated and it was fun. Every time I celebrate, I remember that it’s time for strawberries to be harvested soon.

You can begin looking for local growers who have them for sale at the farmers’ markets. If there’s a store which carries locally-grown produce, give them your business first. Do you have your own strawberry plot and can’t wait to get out there and fill a few quart containers?

Today, let’s look at a couple simple recipes, which you may not have tried, for using this bright red fruit .

Kelly at her blog, The Pretty Bee, creates allergy friendly recipes. Substitutions can always be made, she says, but if you decide to switch up ingredients, nutrition information changes. Kelly provides a chart for nutrition info with her recipes.

Here’s her recipe for Whipped Strawberry Butter I’d be spreading that on my favorite toast, a biscuit or an English muffin. Yummy.

Another foodie blog, Well Plated by Erin, features strawberry dishes this time of year as well. For a sweet dessert, try these Strawberry Oatmeal Bars. Erin also supplies nutrition info for those of us who are watching that sort of thing.

True story: When my mom was pregnant for me, she craved strawberries. When she told the story, she never said whether she was able to satisfy the craving every time. However, I think she just might have, and that indulgence may have affected me.

Until I reached the age of six, I broke out in hives whenever I ate strawberries. Imagine! The first six years of my life with no beautiful, sweet, luscious goodness of a strawberry could enter my body. Then, for some reason, I no longer suffered from ingesting them. Praise God! Perhaps not so ironically, they are by far my favorite fruit. I confess that I could probably binge on strawberries.

Have fun coming up with ideas where you can fill your Foodie Kitchen with fresh strawberry treats.

Try Belgian Waffles. Strawberry Sorbet. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie or Cobbler (yes, the rhubarb’s ready too). Dip them in chocolate. Or just slice some up and throw ’em on top of your ice cream. You get the idea, Foodie Friend.

Eat Hardy and Be a Blessing to Someone Today.

Foodie Failure? There’s Grace

What have been some of your worst foodie failures? Seriously, share in the comments and let us know. We’ve all had them. From poached eggs that wouldn’t stay together, steak too well done (can you say ‘burned?’), cakes with a soggy middle, to pudding that wouldn’t “pudd.” If you putter in the kitchen, it’s bound to happen sooner or later.

I subscribe to a few Foodie blogs and it’s fun to read their posts about exotic recipes and drool over the photos accompanying the descriptions of that food. But sometimes I wonder how many tries it took to get the recipe right. And how many actual photos were taken before they found the one shot which had the food situated just right on the plate, the lighting was correct, and the food didn’t melt into a creamy mess.

Remembering that I’ve had my own Foodie failures, I’m inclined to offer grace to my fellow cooks. Getting a cheesecake loosened from a spring-form pan the first time is tricky. That’s okay. It tastes the same as if it had beautiful edges.

You get the idea.

I have a classic Foodie Failure story which I posted just so my readers could see how people will extend grace when we flop at cooking.

That was a great experience for me. Those friends were women from my church and fellow choir members. They knew the story of how God has extended grace to us by sending his son, Jesus, to die on a cross to save us from sin. Grace to me for how my zucchini came out that night was the least of the things they could forgive me for. After all, they knew me well.

Today is Good Friday. It’s a good, if not great, day for us, because it’s in remembrance of that day when the ultimate story of grace occurred. From the Cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”

Enjoy this Easter season any way you prefer. I hope you find a way to fit in the story of Christ loving us to the ultimate, despite our failures. Because of his sacrifice, he makes all things new. If you haven’t experienced a relationship with Jesus by receiving him as savior, please consider it.

I’m going now. It’s time to fix a traditional breakfast for myself today. I don’t usually do that. But I’m hoping for no Foodie failures like when the toast is the wrong brownness, the poached eggs are too runny and the bacon gets a little too crisp.

Happy Easter, Eat Hardy, and Be a blessing to someone today.

Foodie Over the Rainbow

Thank goodness for the internet. I learned a new kitchen technique this week by searching. Now, maybe you all know how to tint coconut, and I probably would have figured something out, but now I know for sure. It’s so easy.

I needed to know this technique to make what I’m calling “Over the Rainbow Cake.” I saw a picture of it on the internet (thank you, anonymous person!) and decided I’d have to make one. There wasn’t a recipe or instructions, but I figured it wouldn’t be too hard. It’s just an angel food cake cut in half, frosted and decorated with tinted coconut and marshmallows.

You’ll notice there’s no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Disappointing, isn’t it? The leprechaun taunted and teased me and said he wasn’t going to share that information. So I’m settling for the change in my piggy bank.

The cake was a gift for the staff at my church for St. Patrick’s Day. I hope they enjoyed it. For you, my readers, here are some ways to celebrate whether or not you’re Irish.

  • Write a limerick
  • Go searching for a four-leafed clover
  • Drink some ale (?)
  • Sing “That’s an Irish Lullaby” over and over
  • Eat some corned beef and cabbage
  • Wear green so you don’t get pinched
  • Kiss someone who is Irish

Anyway, have a great day and “May the road rise up to meet you.”

 

Foodie Butchers a Bird

We’re going to learn about cutting up a fresh frying chicken today. Well, actually, I’d like to give some instruction and aid you with a video of someone doing it so you can get a good “feel” for how to handle the knife and the bird.

I learned how to cup up a fryer when I worked in a small grocery store that had a fresh meat case. Al, the butcher, taught me a lot about the various cuts of beef and pork and how to save money by using a fryer instead of buying the pieces already cut up. Since I was a young mother trying to save pennies, I was happy to watch him go through three or four chickens before I finally “got it.”

Some of the good reasons to learn and employ this technique:

  • Money saved per pound on chicken
  • Better use of the chicken parts, when done wisely
  • You get parts you like which aren’t found in “selected” packaging
  • Getting “back to basics”
  • A sense of pride in knowing a new kitchen skill

Let’s start with the money you save. It’s not going to make you rich, but when you’re trying to save any way you can, it helps. I mean, you shop sales, use coupons, and want BOGO offers, right? Well, there you go.

As for better use of those pieces, I’ll explain a little more of that later, but when the family likes both dark and white meat, you have it in one neat little package. Those parts you enjoy like the liver, the heart or gizzard are there too.

Notice how the wing ‘tips’ are saved for later.

You get a taste without having to buy a whole package of them, unless you want to do that. But even then, they’re usually frozen and most of us don’t prepare a whole meal of them at once. When you learn to cut up a whole fryer, you have the skill of a chef and a sort of “pioneer” attitude. (without having to catch the bird and pluck its feathers!)

Don’t worry about how much time you won’t save by cutting up your own chicken. This video of Alex from The Food Network shows her doing this is just over 2 minutes. You’ll get that good at it too.

I would add to her instructions that, when you cut those wings off first, be aware of the bones/joints attached to the wing portion. Once you make that cut into the skin, gently bend the wing away from the body of the chicken and then you can slice through. It’s mostly cartilage which gives way pretty easily. Same goes for the joint between the leg and thigh, which is something she mentions. Al taught me to feel for it with my finger; there would be a dip to slice into and then I could find the joint/bone. Always use a sharp, good quality knife.

Isn’t this fun and educational?

All right, now we get to some other practical considerations. You say, “My family isn’t into those internal organs or neck and back pieces.” That’s okay. They can be used, along with the carcass of the chicken, for making something you may or may not have heard of: bone broth. It’s something you make which yields a rich broth you can’t find in the store. “Why does that matter?” you ask. Because homemade broth has ingredients of which you know the origin. You don’t have to read the label.

Rather than type out my own recipe for bone broth, here’s a broth recipe which can be used for either beef or chicken. It’s very close to how I do it. Try a turkey carcass following your holiday meal too; it’s already roasted. (You may have to break the bones apart to get them in.) Beef bones, if not already roasted, work best when browned first for more flavor. Here’s another slow cooker recipe which uses slightly different ingredients. I like the idea of using a slow cooker because most of us want to use time wisely as well as using our money wisely. Besides, you don’t have to stand guard over it and cooking that way fills the house with great aromas.

Some great reasons for making broth:

  • Using every part of the meat you paid good money for
  • Saving money by not having to buy packaged broth
  • Knowing exactly what’s in your broth
  • Having it handy when you want it
  • Nutrients from the bones you wouldn’t normally get
  • Getting back to basics!
  • A new kitchen skill!

You can freeze broth in containers for use later. I use quart containers because that’s what I would have been buying anyway. Your call. Some cooks also can theirs. And don’t miss these excellent tips for making broth which come from the experts.

He doesn’t know what’s coming!

 

 

Eat hardy!

Foodie Snacks For 100 or Less

I can always make a long story longer, but the short of it is I don’t eat the way I used to.

That means I read food product labels; I don’t eat as much processed food; I cook from scratch even more than I used to; I log my food with an online app; and I eat ‘normal’ portion sizes. Most of the time, anyway.

Today’s post is about snacking. I still snack because I need to. Snacking is “doctor’s orders” and a strong suggestion from a dietician I see regularly.

You all know how much I like to cook, how much I like to try new flavors, and how much I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. My doctor isn’t into counting calories as much as making sure I stay with the necessary nutrients and portion size. Man, have I learned a lot about portion size.

This list is a sampling of my favorite snacks that are 100 calories or fewer. You can find such help all over the internet by doing searches. I use MyFitnessPal.

It’s Almost Apple Pie Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on 1 cup unsweetened applesauce.

Miniature Tostada On a small corn tortilla, spread ¼ cup nonfat refried beans. Top it with shredded lettuce, diced tomato, and a sprinkle of shredded low fat cheese.

Mediterranean Tomato Dice a medium tomato and top it with 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

Oh-So-Sweet-Potato This is not a sugary sweet potato; it’s sweet because of the lack of sugar. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get used to not eating sugar on food. Just bake a small sweet potato and sprinkle salt or cinnamon on it. If you want to, microwave it in a potato bag. Here’s an easy pattern for making your own bag. They come out great this way and it’s so quick.

Carrots With Hummus This is the old veggie dip idea but with protein instead of fat. Crunch on 9 or 10 2-inch carrot sticks dipped in hummus. Bonus points if you make your own hummus. Hey, it’s easy.

Santa Fe Black Beans Combine ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt. It’s a hearty snack with protein that won’t quit.

Greek Watermelon Can you tell I enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean? This one combines watermelon (1 cup) and 2 tablespoons feta cheese. Those seemingly incompatible flavors do work. (And I really like feta cheese.)

Turkey Tartine A fancy name for a foodie snack that’s a tasty open faced sandwich. Spread 1 teaspoon mustard on a slice of toasted whole grain bread and lay on 2 slices of deli turkey.

Carrot ‘Salad’ Mix two grated carrots with 1 tablespoon raisins, 1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds, and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.

Black Bean Salad This one’s not only lean, it has protein and fiber. Mix ¼ cup drained and rinsed black beans, 1 small chopped tomato, ¼ cup chopped green bell pepper, and a pinch of chili powder.

Spiced Cottage Cheese Mix ¾ cup nonfat cottage cheese with a pinch of chili powder and a pinch of curry powder. A garnish of chopped scallions is nice.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad Mixing savory and sweet reminds me of those cooking shows on the food networks. So be a pro and mix 1 cup baby spinach with ½ cup sliced strawberries. Drizzle on 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

Cottage Cheese With Melon For a twist on cottage cheese with fruit, combine ¾ cup diced cantaloupe with ¼ cup nonfat cottage cheese. If you’re craving sweetness, drizzle a little raw honey over it.

My tastes run to the spicy and savory so this baker’s dozen sampling reflects that. You know me: get creative in the kitchen. Life’s too short to eat boring food.

Eat hardy!